Premier League – losing the attendance battle?

16 Mar

Recently Í wrote an article on Premier League attendances for the When Saturday Comes website. My argument involved pointing out the irony that just as the Premier League had concluded yet another record breaking deal, when it came to actual live spectators its record has been less good – in fact for over a decade, since the early noughties, the average attendance figure has been virtually static. I also argued that I felt not enough of the TV money coming into the league is being set aside for stadia development. It is these issues which I turn to in more detail.

The 90’s stadia boom

Looking through my old Premier League 95 sticker album one of the most striking things is the number of pictures of half-built stadia; The Taylor report, new sources of finance, and the impetus provided by Euro ’96 – the tournament which was billed as rehabilitating England’s worldwide footballing reputation – all combined to turn back years of under investment (A sign of just how acute this underinvestment had been is the fact that when Scunthorpe United moved to Glanford Park in 1988 it was the football league’s first new purpose built ground since 1955).

Unsurprisingly this building-boom went hand-in-hand with an increase in attendances. By the late 1980s there had already been some tentative growth following a several decades-long slide which dated back to the 1950s, but it was in the 1990s that attendance really surged ahead and by the end of the decade the average attendance was around 10,000 higher than it had been at the beginning, a growth of around 50%

Noughties stagnation

By the early noughties however, this growth had begun to level off. This was not through any shortage of demand though as the Premier League, attracting the best players in the world with a winning combination of high wages and low taxes, continued to draw fans back to live football. Rather it was a stretching of supply. As the Premier League’s own figures highlight the stadium occupancy rate had rocketed from 69.6% in its first season in 1992/93 to 91.8% by 1997/98.  In the last full season it was 95.9% in 2013/14. One inevitable consequence of demand catching up with, and in many cases overtaking, supply was sharp rises in ticket prices as clubs sought to take advantage of the law of supply and demand to maximise their matchday revenues.

PL BL att chart2

Meanwhile in Germany Bundesliga attendances, which had also experienced growth in the 90s, continued to increase. As the 2006 World Cup approached a new generation of German Stadia was emerging which were, on the whole, bigger than their English counterparts. For the tournament almost $2bn was spent on the construction of four new stadia, including the Allianz Arena in Munich with a capacity of 69,901 and a cost of $473 million.

Building for the future?

The position today is that the Premier League, for all its TV money and worldwide adulation, has an average attendance rate some 7,000 spectators per game adrift of its rival. As this is a supply, rather than demand, issue the only solution is to increase capacity. There is some evidence that after something of a a lull in activity this is beginning to happen; In the next few seasons West Ham will move to the Olympic Stadium with a capacity of around 54,000, Anfield will be expanded from 45,000 to 59,000 at a reported cost of £100 million while Tottenham are finally advancing with plans for a 56,000 capacity ground.

Of these projects one involves a ready-built stadia which has been built with a large amount of public money, whilst all have experienced numerous delays and set-backs typical with such large-scale projects. And even with these completed the impact on the league averages will not be enough to fully close the gap on the Bundesliga – taking the 2013/14 season data and assuming the three grounds will be at capacity gives a very rough projection of 37,500.

Challenges ahead

Taking a wider view the clear lesson is that left to their own devices, and without a major tournament on the horizon, individual clubs fail to invest enough in their bricks and mortar. One issue is that for mid and lower ranking clubs despite the rapid growth of broadcasting revenue the risks of diverting money away from playing budgets is particularly high especially if relegation occurs. This makes it more attractive as a short term strategy to use the money instead on player wages in order to realise a higher share of broadcasting revenue.

In the meantime the rest of Europe is not standing still. In Germany Frieburg, one of the Bundesliga clubs with a more modest average attendance, around 26,000, are on course to construct a new 35, 000 seat stadium whilst in France clubs have benefitted from a reported 1.6 billion Euro investment in stadia ahead of the 2016 European championships. Finally in Italy there have been moves to upgrade stadia which have aged since the last building bonanza ahead of Italia 90.

The challenge facing English clubs now is to the need to invest a greater proportion of their new revenue into stadia to meet the demand for watching live football. Failure to do so may represent a missed opportunity which one day the league as a whole could well rue.

How to succeed at football blogging

10 Mar

Row Z is now approaching three years old. Old enough for me to have put together an anthology, but also old enough for me to have picked up a few tips for successful blogging. I’m not saying that I follow all these points – it’s a question of time and to an extent will power, but here is my brief list of what I feel are the important points for any football blogger to consider:

Pay attention to style

It might seem superficial to say, but even the best prose in the world is going to look insipid when set in a standard WordPress, or Blogger template. A good, instantly recognisable style can work wonders. It could be a colour palate, a font, a logo, a clever use of images, or even an entire package which cements your blogs identity.

Good example:

In Bed With Maradona – more commonly known as IBWM – is the one to emulate here with its distinctive visual grammar which exudes a type of coolness complementing the leftfield articles the site specialises in.

Teamwork

For all the diversity of the football blogging world there are essentially two types of blogs; Ones operated by individuals as a solo-effort and those run by a collective. Although it’s not impossible for solo blogs to succeed, success is much more likely to be achieved as part of a team effort; A pool of writers means much more content, many more ideas and perspectives, and far less chance of burn-out.

Exploit the gaps

Blogs are at their best when they fill a gap. While there will never be a shortage of broadsheet, tabloid or magazine articles on the race for the Premiership title, or the merits of the Arsenal squad the same can not be said when it comes to an analysis of the Slovenian second division which could expect to receive about a paragraph a year in World Soccer, if lucky.

Good example: Futbolgrad brings in-depth knowledge to focus on a region which despite being of interest to many receives little attention in the mainstream media.

Tweet-Tweet and Tweet again

This was a tip passed on to me by other bloggers – get on Twitter. There is a huge community, or sub-culture, of bloggers and readers on Twitter and it’s a great platform for publicising your posts and engaging with like-minded writers.

Take a wider view of success

When we’re talking about success in blogging what does it actually mean? Most people’s first answer would probably be hits, or for some maybe even money. For others success might mean an effective-stepping stone on to bigger and better things – i.e a job as a paid journalist.

The truth is that success can come in a multitude of forms. It could just as equally be measured by how much you have improved as a writer, how much fun you’ve had, or the number of friends you’ve made along the way. It could even be about some bigger and loftier aim of playing a part in drawing attention to a marginalised or neglected part of the game whether it’s grass-roots, women’s football, or even the Slovenian second division.

If you have any tips of your own, please leave a comment.

Wessex League attendance Round Up

27 Feb
The main stand at Miller's Park - this was transplanted from the former ground at Southern Gardens

Spectators in the Wessex League at Totton & Eling

Firstly I’d like to say thank you to the Wessex League for kindly providing me with the attendance tables to enable me to do these charts and analysis. I’ve been quite keen to do this for a while as I know that quite a lot of people have an interest in the Wessex League and you never know a few may be interested in attendances too!

All the figures are up to date as far as last Saturday, the 21st February

Headline figures:

Wessex Lg Prem Home Att

Looking at the basic averages the top three slots are occupied by Winchester City with an average attendance of 152, Newport Isle of Wight on 120 and Andover Town with 114. Just behind them, in fourth place – and the final member of the over 100 club – is AFC Portchester on 103.

In many ways it is unsurprising to see Winchester at the top. Winchester is the largest settlement where a Wessex League side is the top team, with a population of 116,000 according to the 2011 Census.

Similarly Newport, though smaller, enjoys a status as the biggest team on the whole island. Both Newport and Winchester have also played at a higher level and although both have had their troubles they are at present doing well in the league which is likely to be another factor behind their ability to pull in the crowds.

Comparison with last season

Thanks to a broken laptop I have lost the set of complete data for last year’s attendances, but I do know that when I last looked at Wessex League attendances, back in October 2014, Winchester were averaging 169, Newport 134 AFC Portchester 109.  All three are down slightly on last year, something which I will put down to the promotion of Sholing. Arguably this has been (in attendance terms) both bad for the league, and bad for Sholing, who up to last October averaged 168 in the Wessex League, but are currently averaging 127 in the Southern League South and West Division.

Derby games

One of my favourite features of the Wessex league is the local derby games. Last Season I visited Sholing for the derby against Follands Sports who had quite literally travelled just round the road. With a lot of Follands supporters present the atmosphere in the ground was good and Sholing enjoyed a good gate.

Sholing hosting Follands Sports in last seasons derby

Sholing hosting Follands Sports in last seasons derby

The attendance stats clearly suggest that proximity plays a big role in determining match day attendances. Looking at the main derby for each club I’ve compiled a list. As a caveat some games are yet to be played, but it shows that at present the core derby action is concentrated around Winchester with the biggest derby Andover Town v Winchester drawing a Wessex Premier highest gate of 228, with the return fixture at Winchester also pulling in a respectable 191 spectators.

WSX prem derby

Petersfield have taken part in two derbies pulling in 200, at home to Winchester City and away to Moneyfields in what I like to call the A272 and A3 derbies.

One interesting point I noticed is that Newport IOW tended to attract bigger gates against teams based in coastal settlements. The attendance at St Georges Park against Pompey-based Moneyfields was 186, possibly swelled by a few away fans who simply hopped on a ferry (or hovercraft) to enjoy a nice day-trip.

Clubs on the geographic periphery of the league however, face something a disadvantage compared to those clubs which can be found in clusters. Bemerton Heath Harlequins for instance have no real local derby fixture, with nearby clubs Downton and Laverstock & Ford both being in Division One.

Pulling power:

In addition to this I looked at each team’s away attendance. In the Premier Division Winchester with an average of 118, Petersfield on 92 and Moneyfields with  90 enjoyed the biggest crowds on the road. Interestingly Blackfield and Langley have managed to average far more away from home, 89, than the 56 who usually turn up to watch them at Gang Warily. The reverse is true of Newport IOW who despite averaging 120 at home, only manage 69 away, and which I put down to the difficulty and expense Newport fans would have getting to and from places like Verwood, Petersfield and Whitchurch.

wessex Lg away Prem att

As an extra exercise I decided to take the away match day attendances for each team and compare these against the season-so-far average for the home side. I then averaged this out, the idea being to give an indication of how many extra spectators above (or below) the ‘usual’ baseline turned out for each away team.

pulling power chart

The results from this show that on their travels Winchester City, on average, attracted 46 more spectators than could usually be expected at a typical game. This was much higher than joint second placed Petersfield Town and Moneyfields who both, on average, attracted 18 more spectators than could be expected.

There are two explanations for this 1.) That more people come out to watch top teams, or 2.) Winchester, Petersfield and Moneyfields have the biggest travelling support which swells attendances at whichever club is hosting them. A third explanation (and in my view the most likely) is that it is in fact a bit of both – from the figures though it is impossible to separate home from away, or even neutral spectators.

Division One

Cowes Sports top Division One with an average attendance of 90. This is particularly impressive and would put them in fifth place in the Premier Division, just ahead of Petersfield Town. Cowes Sports are also still due to host an all-Cowes derby against East Cowes Vics so their final average could well go up, provided this fixture doesn’t for whatever reason end up being played on a rainy mid-week.

WSX one home att

In 5th place in the League and their Cowes brethren the Vics lying in bottom place Sports can boast of being the islands second team, behind Newport. As we have seen there is a suggestion that Newport do not have much in the way of travelling support, which may be due to logistics – could it be that Cowes Sports are the chief beneficiaries when Newport are off playing in the more far-flung parts of the region?

WSX one away

One of the most interesting points is the difference between Team Solent’s home and away average attendances. So far Solent have attracted just 24 people, on average, to their Test Park base. This figure is the second worst in the league, behind US Portsmouth – a ground to which access involves passing a naval-base checkpoint. Both, of course, experience such attendances as they are sides which are backed by institutions, rather than a local support-base, but those living nearby the Solent ground may be missing something as league-leaders Solent are the biggest draw on the road, averaging 55 per game, just in front of Laverstock & Ford’s 52.

Derbies

In general the division one clubs tend to be located in the far-flung fringes of the region, such as Pewsey Vale which lies roughly between Salisbury and Swindon. A consequence of this is that true derby games are fewer in number, but. there are still a number of derbies of note in Division One. The biggest so far being the Salisbury-area derby between Downton and Laverstock & Ford which drew a crowd of 140

WSX one derbies

In second place, with a crowd of 129 is the Cowes Derby. This is probably made more interesting by the fact that Cowes is divided in two by the river Medina and connected only by a chain-ferry. Cowes Sports hail from West Cowes, while the Vics sit on a hill in East Cowes.

Third place is awarded to Cowes Sports v New Milton Town. It’s always difficult to say what constitutes a derby, but this one just creeps in due to the proximity of New Milton to the island and to ferry services; In any case its tempting to suppose the crowd of 110 may well have been swelled by a few day-trippers.

This concludes the round up which I hope you’ve enjoyed. I’m hoping the league will be kind enough to give me the figures again at the end of the season, so if there’s enough interest I can do this again.

Where have all the Franny’s Gone? Comparing player Turnover

20 Feb

Yesterday I got to thinking about squad turnover. It’s often said that players come and go and Southampton’s summer exodus seemed to stand in contrast to the old Dell days when the likes of Benali, Dodd and Le Tissier gave the team a familiar feel over the course of many seasons, but just how much is this impression rooted in reality? Do players really move from club to club that much more?

Using some old programmes I’ve taken two points in time January 11th 1997 and January the 1st 2015. I’ve then looked at the starting XI for each game. Respectively these were against Middlesbrough in 1997 and Arsenal in 2015.

  • The 2015 starting XI have played, on average, 49 games for Saints. The class of 1997 however, had played, on average, 65 games for Saints. The median figures are 22 for 2015 and 35 for 1997
  • Three of the starting XI Robinson, Benali and Oakley had at that point only ever played for Southampton, making 302 appearances between them. In 2015 James Ward-Prowse is the only member of the team to have only played for the club, with a total of 71 appearances.
  • In 2015 Jose Fonte is the only member of the starting XI to have clocked up in excess of 100 appearances for Saints. In the 1997 line-up three players: Ken Monkou (164), Francis Benali (256) and Jim Magilton (131) had made over a century.
  • Missing from the 2015 line-up, through suspension, is Morgan Schniederlin with 254 appearances however also missing from the 1997 starting line-up was Matt Le Tissier who was then on 424 appearances.

Appearances Comparison

appearance comparison

Saints, Pompey and the city that never was…

18 Feb

Recently I’ve been looking beyond blogging to a few different projects. One of these is looking at the history of Southampton FC from a ‘what if’ perspective. It’s a long way from completion (if it does ever see the light of day!), but I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the output and see what people think. The what if here relates to a plan, which seems almost unthinkable, but was seriously considered in the 1960s…

We have glimpsed at the possibilities of a new kind of metropolitan area for people who may or may not be more affluent and more leisured than we are today, but who are certain to be better educated. For them we have seen clustered housing in rich variety with rivers and woodlands in interlacing patterns, countryside and marine recreations ready to hand, easy for movement , convenient for shopping, strongly based on educational establishments, a powerful commercial centre, and (as important as anything) a venue for “21st century” industry. Seen in this light we realised that expansion could bring incalculable profit to the whole nation

Buchanan & Partners South Hampshire Study: Report on the feasibility of major urban growth Ministry of Housing and Local Government HMSO 1966

Lying in the depths of Southampton’s civic archive is a document with a plan so radical, of such magnitude, that had it been implemented the whole region – maybe even the whole country – would today look vastly different: Officially named The South Hampshire Study the 1966 publication by Colin Buchanan and Partners sets out the blue-print for what is more commonly known as Solent City – a name which was not used in the South Hampshire Study itself, but came from an earlier publication, A Town called Alcan, which had tabled proposals for a similar ‘linear-city’ development.

The intent of the plan outlined in the SHS was to create a city able to accommodate a growing population, promote new types of industry such as electronics and act as a ‘counterweight’ to London. The city would be joined up by a grid system of road and rail with several major routes connecting the city from East to West, bookended by the ancient cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.

It is these two cities which have had a longstanding rivalry. There is much myth and confusion about the historic origins of this rivalry with various explanations offered from strike-breaking to medieval administrative antagonisms.

What is more abundantly clear is that today it is the two cities respective football clubs which are beacons of this rivalry. It is also one which has hardened in the past few years. Whilst football has generally shaken off the tarnish of the era of hooliganism to become safer and more family friendly games between the two have been at best ill-tempered. Infamously in one 2004 meeting which resulted in 94 arrests a 14 year old girl became the youngest female to receive a ban from football matches. Non-competitive games between the two which were once an regular feature would today be almost unthinkable, the last being veteran Pompey ‘keeper Alan Knight’s testimonial in 1994

So what would have happened had the Solent City plan been realised, would the rivalry be as deep as it has become today, or would it have taken a different course?

The authors of the Urban South Hampshire Study were clear in that their vision was not simply to expand, or merge the cities, but to create a whole new entity and the development was meant to re-enforce this

In general terms we think both cities would need to find their futures in identifying themselves as important parts of a new metropolitan area on the south coast. This is especially applicable to Portsmouth. This city, with the greatest respect, is a city with a question mark over it

Had this occurred then the logical step would be for the rivalry between the cities and football fans to evaporate with the softening of the lines on the map. Boundaries can change and it is worth remembering that the Hampshire Senior Cup final of 1893 was added extra poignancy by the fact that Freemantle was due to be swallowed up by its burgeoning neighbour and the Magpies victory that day could be seen as a reassertion of Freemantle’s identity as something distinct. In the present day however, the idea that today a resident of Freemantle – or indeed a resident of Bitterne, Portswood, or St. Deny’s – would draw a distinction between being a resident of their area and a resident of Southampton is extremely unlikely.

The planners proposals sought to remodel the existing cities, including a shift the new mega-cities centre of gravity to the points where the major routes intersected at Eastleigh or Cosham. Such re-modelling would lead to some displacement of the population from what are core areas of the clubs supporter base, weakening these. Furthermore Solent City would also have had many cases of shared symbols, perhaps even a landmark piece of architecture or two. In time structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, or London Eye become focal points of a shared sense of identity.

All of this in time this would erode the identity of Southampton and Portsmouth without which the rivalry would be almost meaningless.

Finally there is the question of novelty factor. It has been suggested that one reason for the derby having added significance is that the two clubs fortunes have rarely aligned. This makes games between the two rare events, more so since the virtual cessation of non-competitive fixtures between the two. Solent City development would have been good for both clubs in terms of the population boost in their catchment as well as the economic power of the region as a whole. This would have made it easier to sustain two top flight clubs. Games between the two would have become routine events and therefore less likely to cause much excitement, much like as if Christmas was every day.

On the other hand some of the fiercest and most keenly contested rivalries take place within a single city. In fact the battle to acquire bragging rights as Solent City’s premier team may even lend the rivalry an extra edge. The examples of Arsenal and Tottenham, Rangers and Celtic, Liverpool and Everton, Bristol City and Bristol Rovers all demonstrate that sharing a city doesn’t act in any way to diminish a rivalry between football clubs.

Similarly history and identity cannot be so easily erased, even by the bulldozer. It is possible that the rivalry would become even more potent as the population reacted against official efforts to mould a new pan-Solent identity. Even with better transport links and greater fluidity of movement, people still do not tend to move far from their support networks. This impulse would ensure that despite remodelling and displacement old networks and allegiances would find a way to endure.  The two clubs would come to represent a form of resistance to the new vision and the new landscape – a way of kicking back against large-scale change. In this case a rivalry would be at the very least as fierce and intense as today, but may well have been even more so.

All this remains conjecture. Buchanan and Partner’s plans were met with a less than favourable response and instead of becoming reality were banished to a dusty shelf in the bowels of Southampton civic centre. There is however, an irony, pointed out by Nicholas Phelps in his book An Anatomy of Sprawl: Planning and Politics in Britain. It is that what opponents of Solent City most feared, urban sprawl, has come to pass. The hinterland between the two cities, of villages and strawberry fields has been largely developed, into a continuous edgeland of suburban cul-de-sacs, industrial estates and retail parks; Piecemeal and lacking a unifying one-city vision. At some point in this a no-man’s land red becomes blue, but for the most part those residents watching football on their televisions are as likely to be wearing Liverpool, Chelsea, or Manchester United shirts while at the far ends the poles of Southampton and Portsmouth seem further apart than ever.

The decline of luck in football

4 Feb

Recently I wrote about the gradual increase in inequality when looking at Premier League clubs number of wins per season. To recap – over time there has been a long-term tendency for the number of wins to be shared less equitably among the competing teams.

One explanation I offered for this was luck and as luck would have it as I was pondering this I came across Ed Smith’s book Luck.

In this Smith makes the argument that football is, by its nature, determined significantly by luck

The huge size of football’s currency unit – the goal – makes luck a far greater force in football than in other sports. A net cord, we already know, can randomly determine a single tennis point. But it would be staggeringly unlikely that one player could get enough lucky net cords in one match to change the result. In football, by contrast, one lucky score is all you need.

Citing Stefan Szymanski he adds however, that the Premier league and its brand of financial inequality have acted to reduce the role of luck over a season, with the number of wins correlated with a clubs financial muscle – though he does maintain that when it comes to individual games there is still a role for luck to play.

One way of visualising the degree of luck in football (in Luck Smith points to a similar exercise involving American Football) is to observe the distribution of wins. The more luck (which is random) plays a part in determining the results the more the chart will represent a normal distribution – or to use its other name the bell-curve – which is the sort of distribution you’d end up with if results were determined by flipping a coin, or rolling a dice.

bell curve

Taking the 1929-30 season we can see that the distribution of wins is distinctly bell-curve like. In other words what we’d expect with a random distribution.

2930 season graph

Moving forward to the last full season in 2013-14 however, the distribution of wins over the season looks much less like a bell-curve with a breakaway number of clubs clumped at the far end; Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.

1314 season graph

This is, of course just a snapshot, but below is a few more charts which suggest that over time the distribution has changed

5960 graph

7980 graph

8990 graph

9900 graph

0910 graph

In praise of Manager’s Notes

24 Jan

Programme notes

Arriving at a football ground in advance of kick off there are a few options for passing the time until kick-off; Watching the teams warm up, listening to the up-tempo motivational music pumped out by the tannoy system, observing the antics of the furry team mascot as it gambols around the sidelines, or reading the managers programme notes.

Manager’s notes are something of a football institution, but they have not been universally well-received. Ahead of a game with Manchester United in the 1969-70 season the then Arsenal manager Bertie Mee could barely contain his disdain when he set out his view in the notes that:

“I strongly believe that a Football manager’s job is one that does not permit him to appear too often in print. Equally, however, I believe that I owe it to our supporters to tell them from time, to time, just what is going on behind the scenes.”

It was not until the tail-end of the season, some seven months later, that Mee would allow his words to appear in the programme on the occasion of the second leg of the UEFA Cup against Anderlecht with Mee’s chief topic being his pleasure with the progress of Arsenal youngsters Eddie Kelly and Charlie George.

While some managers continue to avoid programme notes, leaving the job variously to chairmen, club captain, or programme editor, Mee’s view appears to be in the minority. Indeed one of his successors in the Arsenal hot-seat Arsene Wenger routinely fills several pages with conversational-style observations and anecdotes ranging from the performance of the team, the players, injuries, discussion of the attributes of the opposition and reflections on the ones-that-got-away. Reading these the fan can be forgiven for thinking, for a few moments at least, that they are engaged in a one-to-one chat over a pint with the manager.

Wenger has, of course, been with Arsenal for some time, but programme notes can be useful too for incoming manager looking to make a vitally good first impression with fans; setting out their credentials, and just as importantly their vision to return the club to greatness and like Louis Van Gaal, in his notes ahead of Manchester United’s pre-season friendly with Valencia, anticipating that “special moment” when he would be “walking out into the stadium as the manager of Manchester United.”

Equally for the under-pressure manager programme notes can provide a space for setting out excuses for ‘undeserved’ defeats; a long injury-list, fixture congestion, the bad luck in hitting the crossbar, the unjustly awarded (or denied) penalty and the unfair sending-off. Programme notes are a place for the manager to rail against everything that is wrong with the world.

For those of a more sporting bent, notes also allow the manager to acknowledge the achievements of the visitors, and of their opposite number – particularly if the visiting manager is a former colleague from back in their playing days. In fact this gesture is expected as demonstrated by the furore surrounding Jose Mourinho’s omission of any mention within his programme notes of Arsene Wenger’s achievement in leading Arsenal for his 1,000th game in charge against Chelsea.

Mind games, perhaps, but Mourinho – whose own notes rarely rise above the average – would do well to take a lesson from Brian Clough who manages to combine a gesture of sporting acknowledgement with a reminder of his own greatness. Welcoming Aston Villa ahead of a 1979 clash Clough opens his notes with:

“If there is any manager and club who have had more publicity than myself and Nottingham Forest this season it’s got to be Ron Saunders and Aston Villa.”

It is a line which you can only imagine Clough saying, though in a modern managers life you sense that there are several more pressing issues to attend to than sitting at the word processor and banging out a few hundred words, besides there is no shortage of capable writing talents involved in putting together the glossy ‘match-day magazine’.

Such developments should however, be resisted as managers notes are by far at their best when at their most eccentric and off-message – though few can be more off message than a one-time manager of Hampshire’s oldest football team, Fordingbridge Turks, who in recounting a 5-3 loss to Southbourne suggested that with the exception of two players “the rest of the team need shooting.”

When boss of Conference side Yeovil Town in the 1989-90 season Brian Hall, in his On the Ball column, eschewed the usual topics to produce some classics of the notes genre; One fine example being a surprisingly humorous account of a six-and-a-half-hour nightmare journey to Nottingham en route to take on Boston. Of the M1 Hall’s sense of frustration is tangiable as he writes

“We explored at about 1mph every yard of it from just outside Luton to Toddington, had a break to discuss the road surface and surrounding countryside and decided we were enjoying it so much that we continued our examination for a further five miles.”

It is a description which lays bare the unglamorous life behind-the-scenes in the lower reaches of the game. More importantly it somehow reduces the distance between the manager and the fan, which is what manager’s notes are all about.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 349 other followers

%d bloggers like this: